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I’m a big fan of traditional Cassoulet. And I’m not alone; a repeated question I get is “Where can I get a good cassoulet in Paris?” The short answer is: To the Southwest of France. Sure, one can pick up a jar of Cassoulet from Castelnaudary, or make it, which I sometimes do. For those who want to tackle the project, there’s a recipe in My Paris Kitchen. But not everyone wants to spend a few days gathering ingredients and sauteeing and simmering them together, then baking, then reheating the behemoth in their oven.

While it’s one of my top favorite dishes in the French food canon, sometimes I don’t want to wait, and remain wary of the jar. So when I saw a recipe for Cassoulet Toast in Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. Cookbook author Susan Spungen is one of the top food stylists (she famously styled the food for Eat, Pray, Love and the Julie & Julia film), who noted in the headnote of the recipe that she originally wanted to include a Cassoulet recipe in her book, but decided it was too formidable to hoist on home cooks, so came up with a recipe that captures the flavors that we love about cassoulet; the rich, velvety beans, the caramelized aromatics, and the tender duck confit, all on a slice of crisp, country-style bread.

I know right now there are legions of home cooks baking their own sourdough loaves, naming their starters and proudly posting pictures of them online. I’m not one of them, because I’m just a short walk from several excellent bakeries, and I enjoy going in, saying hi to the staff, and bringing a loaf home. It’s a daily ritual in France, which is why bakeries are still open during the lockdown and considered “essential” businesses.

The fun thing that’s interesting to watch online these days is with most of us facing limited food and shopping choices, is how creative people have become. This recipe is a perfect example of that. If you’re a fan of detailed, impeccably-written recipes, you can’t go wrong with recipes written by a famous food stylist.

Susan has seen, and cooked, them all, and lets you know in all her recipes, from the Apple Halvah Galette (which I plan to make as soon as I can get my hands on some halvah) to a no-worry Cheese Soufflé, and a luscious-looking Chocolate Beet Cake, she includes details you know and love, such as how long things will take to cook, what heat to use, issues to look out for, what can be done ahead, and how the dish will turn out. I questioned a few things she said when reading through this recipe, including caramelizing one onion for twenty-five minutes. Huh? I would sure it’d be burnt to a crisp.

It looked fine to me after ten minutes, but I trusted her words, and sure enough, at the twenty-five-minute mark, the onions were marvelously bronzed and caramelized. Perfect.

Canned beans are one of the quick-fixes to these toasts. Susan and I did a recipe swap (watch here on Instagram, available only on mobile devices) and she showed her can of Goya white beans which she said were her preferred beans as they were large and plump. In France, I went with flageolets en conserve.

Duck confit, the other quick-fix in this recipe, might not be something you have on hand. But in France, it just may be, since it’s intended purpose was to preserve duck for later (or leaner) times. If you don’t have it, Susan recommends mail-ordering it from D’Artagnan or you can make the “quick” counterfeit Duck Confit recipe in My Paris Kitchen, which I also shared in Drinking French, that’s a snap to make in any home oven.

To be honest, the beans were so good on their own that you could conceivably just keep this as “beans on toast” and leave it at that. I loved the savory beans with caramelized garlic and herbs, but you could also top them with shredded roast chicken, seared garlicky mushrooms, or crisp bacon.

It was a little scary sharing a picture of my lunch with the recipe by a famous food stylist, but it was truly one of the best things I’ve made, and eaten, in a while. While it might not be a traditional cassoulet, it’s classy and delicious.

Cassoulet Toast

Adapted from Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings by Susan Spungen While I like my cast iron skillet as much as the next person (who brags about how much they like their cast iron skillets online), they don't work well for everything. They aren't so great for fried rice and I used mine for this recipe but found the duck skin sticks as much as rice grains do. While the pan scrapings were scrumptious, I didn't get clean, neat pieces of skin. So if that's your goal, do as Susan does and cook the duck confit in step #3 in a non-stick skillet. In keeping with the duck theme, I also used duck fat in step #1 in place of the olive oil, but you can use either. Cans and jars of beans differ in Europe than in the U.S. You don't need to get too finicky about it (this guide gives equivalents) but you can use anywhere between 2 1/2 and 3 cups/425-450g drained weight and volume, of tinned or jarred beans. Serious Eats has a bean guide in case you want to use dried beans.) Large beans work best. Susan prefers to use butter beans, or similar-sized beans. But any beans would work here.
Servings 4 servings
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , (or duck fat), plus a little extra for drizzling
  • 1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • Two 15 ounces/425ml (each) cans or jars of beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) chopped canned tomatoes, in their juice
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 (5 ounces/140g) prepared duck confit leg and thigh
  • 1 cup (250ml) plus 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 slices thick-cut sourdough (levain) or country bread
  • flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped, for garnish
  • In a medium (10-inch/25cm) skillet that has a cover, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat with the onion slices, and three of the whole cloves of garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic soften and start to color, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring infrequently, until caramelized, 25 minutes.
  • Add the drained beans, tomatoes, thyme, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 cup of water. Increase the heat until the mixture starts to simmer. Use a fork to mash about 1/8th of the beans against the sides of the pan, which will thicken the mixture nicely as it cooks. Continue to simmer until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. When done, the mixture should resemble a loose, soupy stew. Turn off heat, remove the thyme sprigs, and mash the garlic cloves with a fork so they meld with the bean mixture. Cover to keep warm, and set aside.
  • Place the duck confit thigh is a small-to-medium skillet (preferably not cast iron) skin side down. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and turn the heat to medium-low.
  • Cover and cook until the skin is soft enough to remove, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the skin from the leg in one whole piece, if possible. (I used a paper towel to grab the tip of the leg and carefully coax the skin off with a pair of tongs. It's okay if it comes off in several pieces but do your best to get large ones.) If the skin pieces are sticking and/or the duck to the pan, slide a spatula under them to scrape and lift them away from the bottom of the pan. It's okay if everything doesn't look picture perfect - duck confit is the ultimate "falling off the bone" French dish - and the duck and skin will eventually be torn over the toasts. Preheat the broiler if planning to use that to toast the bread.
  • With the lid off, continue to cook the duck thigh, with the skin in the pan next to it, turning both as they cook, until the thigh is starting to get crisp and the skin is close to crisp. The cooking of the duck and skin will take a total of 10 minutes, although the skin may take a bit longer. Remove the duck to a plate and place the skin on a paper towel to drain and crisp up. During the last few minutes while the duck is cooking, turn on the broiler and toast the bread on a baking sheet on both sides until nicely browned, but not hard or overly crisp, or toast the bread in a toaster. When done, rub the remaining garlic clove over the slices of warm bread.
  • Top each slice of warm bread with some of the bean mixture, about 1/2 cup each. Top with shredded duck confit meat and crumbled crisp duck skin. Drizzle each toast with a little olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley.


Serving: Serve the toasts on their own with drinks as an appetizer, or with a salad of bitter greens, such as frisée, chicory, mustard greens, and/or radicchio, to make it a main course for lunch or dinner.
Storage: Make the bean mixture up through step #2 and chill the beans up to two days in advance. Rewarm before serving, adding additional liquid (water or tomato juice) while reheating if the mixture has thickened too much during storage. The duck confit and skin can be cooked a few hours in advance.


    • Taste of France

    As canned cassoulet goes, la Belle Chaurienne is among the best.
    But…Gascony?!?!?! The Holy Trinity of cassoulet are Castelnaudary, Toulouse and Carcassonne. I had the honor of attending a dinner of l’Académie Universelle du Cassoulet, and the meal was fantastic.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Sorry. I was trying to write up this recipe and adding all the links, and posting the previous one this morning for today’s Live Apéritif Hour (as well as dealing with a bunch of other stuff around here…) and I f*cked up doing too much. My apologies, I revised :(

    • Paul Eggermann


    I have spent many summers near Carcassonne and remember well the wonderful cassoulet they make there. Back home in New Jersey I have become friendly with the folks at D’Artagnan Foods. They have a Cassoulet Kit that takes all the shopping out of it and you can have a huge bowl full in mere hours.


      • David
      David Lebovitz

      They are a great resource, aren’t they? Funny that you mention a few “hours” because I recently saw a cassoulet recipe that said to bake it, then let it cool and sit overnight, then do the same two more times before eating it. I was, like, wow…that’s a long time and a lot of heating and cooling (plus who can give up all that refrigerator space for a huge cassoulet for several days!)

      : )

        • soosie

        Seems to me some SF restaurant was known for its hundred day cassoulet. When it closed for a kitchen fire, Herb Caen lamented that it would be 100 days from reopening before they could again serve their signature dish.

      • Marsha

      How about making halvah?! I’ve been at it for a few years…mostly successful!

    • Clair Beckmann

    Sorry, but need to let you know that it would help in the Kitchen Sink Cookies to say if you let them come to room temp after the fridge or just cook them straight??? No longer open for comment, so cheating I know and they are AWESOME, but I baked them longer right from fridge.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It would help if you could add to your comment how much longer they took to bake. Thanks!

    • Jim

    You had me at cassoulet! This looks fantastic. Our bean selection in western Canada is pretty pathetic so will likely have to use white kidney beans. Wish we had Tarbais.

    • Kim W

    I actually was ambitious enough to make my own cassoulet a couple weeks ago (the Wegmans’ in Brooklyn is now my local, and my roommate has some VERY interesting cookbooks); this is giving me ideas for leftovers!

    • Mary F

    I have never really understood all the
    fuss over cassoulet, yes, it’s tasty, but so are a million other things which take far less time and taste a whole lot better. Having only made it once, the time element became sufficient reason to never make it again. However I am now intrigued to try this more appealing shortcut…

    • Sharon

    I just discovered D’Artagnan and have been looking for an excuse to try the duck confit, so thanks!

    • Ivy

    Saw this in my email this morning and, although I didn’t have any duck confit lying around, I had some delicious pork chops left over and added them instead. What a delicious breakfast! I added a poached egg, which I just learned how to do in the microwave. I halved the recipe and have some left over for breakfast tomorrow. Or lunch, dinner, a snack …

    • Valentina

    Wonderful your recipe, like my ceramics, they are shine!

    • Sandra Alexander

    Brilliant! Now we can have cassoulet as a winter lunch, not have to hold off and wait for a Big Occasion to make it. BTW, years ago I found a recipe for cassoulet with fresh broad beans. After a very long flight we were staying overnight in a hotel in Toulouse. The recipe was in the local-promotions book in our room. Had a fab morning buying the ingredients at the nearby Toulouse market, then drove to our rental house and made the cassoulet for dinner. Great start to a great holiday!

    • p.r.

    I saw ‘cassoulet’ and thought, “let’s see how many hours this thing takes?”, but then discovered that i had everything on hand to make this except the duck, AND it only took about 30 minutes. i swapped shredded chicken (it’s a fowl!) for the duck and went ahead and made this. I figured I’d have lots of leftovers…instead I have a meager one serving. thank you david.

    • Margaret

    A few years ago I spent some time staying with friends in a small village south of Toulouse. One of them had worked as a French chef and they asked me what French foods I wanted to try, among them was cassoulet So he bought a large can of duck confit from the grocery store and made cassoulet from that — I guess that’s quick cassoulet?

    • mahri

    “which I plan to make as soon as I can get my hands on some halvah”

    Can’t halvah be made at home? I would love a recipe!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Marsha, who commented above, mentioned she makes it. Normally you need soapwort to get that certain texture, but perhaps she has a recipe she can share with you?

    • Jerry

    I am new to your books but absolutely enjoy your writing style. I am curious if you might suggest some cooking schools in Paris. My wife and are retired and not looking for for anything more than a 1 to 2 week course to enjoy learning a few things about french cooking as well as explore a bit of Paris. Thankyou!

    • Terry

    Hi, question about the confit recipe. In My Paris Kitchen, The Counterfeit Duck Confit includes an instruction to pierce the duck with a needle before applying the rub. Should I do the same same with the recipe from Drinking French and/or this recipe?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      You can do it either way. It’s not an essential step.

    • Alice

    I recently visited France and had some amazing luck finding some really GOOD cassoulet. It was served in a little cast iron pot, everything was just fantastic! Of all my memories of eating in France on this trip, this meal was my most memorable. Check it out. It’s in the 15th.
    L’Orée du Parc
    9 Rue de l’Abbé de l’Épée,
    The owner (husband) is a doll, to boot! A trip to SOF of course, would be awesome, but when you can’t do that, this place will suffice.

    • Katrina

    Hello David! Just when my mornings could not get any better, you add a newsletter. Do add me please and my best to Romain!

    • tiffani

    Any suggestions on where to buy sel fume in the US?

    • Mary S.

    Alas, no duck in the larder but braised chicken thighs with onion and bacon; crisped up the bacon, chicken skin and shredded chicken, and served over the beans. Used Roma tomatoes that needed to be cooked along with some tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes in the beans which were generic Great Northerns. Made four days ahead, so flavors would meld, also added the braising mixture from the meat into the beans as they reheated. Having made cassoulet from “scratch”, a la Olney and others, this is a fast, tasty way to go for a family meal while “staying home”.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Mary: That’s funny because I was just looking at Richard Olney’s recipe last night! His is really quite an undertaking (and has breadcrumbs on it, which some might quibble at) but he was really amazing. Yes, real cassoulet is a project and I make it once in a while, but this is easy enough to enjoy more often.

    • Pam from Cape Cod

    Ooooh. This looks good. I’d have it for dinner with a salad. I have two confit duck legs in the freezer and I also have some duck rillettes that I think might be delicious here.
    I know, I know. Other, more practical people bought toilet paper and I will probably wish that I had followed suit at some point. Or not.

      • Shira

      Having learned that Picard has duck confit I made an even more shortcut version of the recipe during this last weekend of confinement in Paris. Duck crisped up in the oven, doctored up a can of prepared beans with extra garlic and onion and used an Eric Keyser rustic toast as a base. Superb! Thanks for the inspiration!


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